The Marshall Tucker Band review: This 1973 debut album defined progressive country

This debut album by The Marshall Tucker Band helped launch "progressive country rock" and gave us their biggest hit, "Can't You See."
The Marshall Tucker Band Performs at The Fox Theater - October 31, 1975
The Marshall Tucker Band Performs at The Fox Theater - October 31, 1975 / Tom Hill/GettyImages

The Marshall Tucker Band's self-titled debut album, The Marshall Tucker Band, was released in 1973. The band, hailing from Spartanburg, South Carolina, is known for its unique blend of Southern rock, country, and jazz influences. The album features a distinctive sound characterized by the use of flute, saxophone, and other instruments not commonly associated with country and rock music, which is why people sometimes label the band as progressive country. The self-titled album includes tracks such as "Take the Highway" (possibly the proggiest song on the album), "Can't You See," and "Hillbilly Band."

"Can't You See" is perhaps the band's most well-known song and has become a Southern rock anthem (though yells of "Play Freebird!" will always annoy musicians at concerts more often than demands to play Marshall Tucker). Possibly the moodiest song on the album, it's likely the track most relatable to wide audiences. Some tracks from the album are less obviously tailor-made for radio, such as "Ab's Song" (written by band member Toy Caldwell for his wife Abbie). The Marshall Tucker Band's debut showcased their signature sound and style, which incorporated elements of rock, country, blues, and jazz, and without making the music sound gimmicky.

The band's use of the flute and saxophone, played by Jerry Eubanks, set them apart from many other Southern rock bands of the time, helping to define "progressive country." Though Doug Gray has often been the lead singer of the band, Toy Caldwell performs primary vocals on the tracks "Can't You See," "Hillbilly Band," and "Ab's Song," in addition to lead and steel guitar. Tommy Caldwell plays bass guitar, background vocals, and drums on "See You Later, I’m Gone." George McCorkle plays rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, and percussion. Last but not least: Paul Riddle is on drums.

Success of The Marshall Tucker Band

While the debut album didn't initially achieve massive commercial success, it gained popularity over time, especially in the album era. Not only did "Can't You See" become a radio favorite but the band's unique sound helped them build a dedicated fanbase. The Marshall Tucker Band continued to release successful albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s, becoming a prominent and influential force in the Southern rock genre. Despite lineup changes over the years, the band maintained a loyal following, even releasing a Christmas album in 2005 called Carolina Christmas.

Obviously, this album will not be everyone's favorite of all time, but it's hard to see how someone would consider "Can't You See" as the worst that Southern rock has to offer. The Marshall Tucker Band's debut album was released certified gold in 1975, and their second album, A New Life, released in 1974, was also certified gold in 1977. Following their debut, the band released a new studio album each year, until that pattern was broken after 1983. Recently, they earned the status of 1 billion+ streams on Pandora! Oh, and they are also still touring.

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